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Experts: Outdated laws stymie efforts to stop prostitution via Internet

Vikings could play London games; Duluth port extra busy; challenger ready to run for Gauthier’s job; Minnesota delegation’s wealth; and more.

Pressure continues to build on Village Voice Media, owners of City Pages, to drop what authorities regard as advertising for prostitution. MPR runs a piece with experts discussing the legal fine points involved: “Laws written long before the dawn of the Internet age have authorities across the nation struggling to prosecute online prostitution rings because of huge loopholes and defense lawyers’ claims that the websites are protected speech. A case in point is a recent New Mexico case involving a retired professor and former college administrator who were accused in what police described as an extensive multistate, online prostitution ring, experts say. The two were cleared after a judge ruled that state law said the website they operated didn’t constitute a ‘house of prostitution,’ even though investigators said the men used the site to recruit prostitutes and promote prostitution. … backpage.com has been under fire for its popular online ads of escort and ‘body rub’ services that authorities say are ads for prostitution services. David Brown, chief criminal deputy of Hennepin County … said Minnesota’s laws are written broadly enough that authorities can prosecute those who use websites for prostitution. Still, he said even Minnesota authorities have limitations. ‘We see backpage.com as a forum,’ Brown said. ‘What we do is go after the conduct.’ “

Your soon-to-be-Super Bowl-champion Minnesota Vikings (TM Dan Cole) are a top candidate to play a game in London. The PiPress story, by Brian Murphy, says: “According to two people with direct knowledge of the situation, the Vikings are the league’s top candidate to play in Wembley Stadium in the next four years, and the team is negotiating with the University of Minnesota to relocate games from TCF Bank Stadium to London while the Metrodome is reconstructed. The Vikings have not played abroad in 18 years. But they have emerged as the leading contender to replace the Rams, who abandoned plans to play in London in 2013 and ’14 to focus on a stadium deal in St. Louis, and fulfill part of the NFL’s commitment to the United Kingdom through 2016.”

A fed subsidy/stimulus has Duluth-Superior ports buzzing with activity. The AP says: “The rush to finish wind farm projects before a federal tax incentive expires has boosted shipments at the Port of Duluth-Superior. Duluth Seaway Port Authority executive director Adolph Ojard said the port has handled nearly a dozen shipments of wind turbine components, plus a number of shipments of U.S.-manufactured blades being sent to Brazil. The federal credit expires at the end of the year. It provides wind developers a tax break of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour for the power they generate from utility-scale wind projects.”

Also from Duluth, Mike Creger of the News Tribune reports: “Duluth City Councilor Jay Fosle has entered the race for state representative in House District 7B following news this week of an alleged sexual liaison between Rep. Kerry Gauthier and a 17-year-old at a rest area off Interstate 35 in Duluth. Fosle’s action comes as Republicans call for Gauthier to resign. Gauthier is up for re-election in November as his freshman two-year term as 7B representative expires. No charges were filed in the case, but police say in the investigative documents that Gauthier and the teen admitted having consensual oral sex at the rest stop.”

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You may have seen the breakdown of wealth of Minnesota’s congressional delegation. The AP story say: “Al Franken and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann are the wealthiest members of Minnesota’s 10-person congressional delegation, according to financial disclosure forms filed this week. Franken, a Democrat, is worth between $4 million and $12.5 million, while Bachmann, a Republican, owns assets worth between $1.3 million and $2.8 million. The bulk of Bachmann’s assets are from her husband’s Christian counseling clinic and a stake in his family farm in Wisconsin. She reported zero income from memoirs published last year.” … But wait until she gets that check for the movie rights.

It may be too early to call it “a cure,” but a Strib story sounds positive about a product to attack zebra mussels: “A naturally occurring substance that has been used to control invasive mussels in industrial water systems is being tested against those invaders in open waters in west-central Minnesota. The product, called Zequanox, will be tested against zebra and quagga mussels in waterways at Lake Carlos State Park, north of Alexandria, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said last week. Zequanox was approved by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 for use in controlling the invasive mussels, which clog industrial water systems such as power plant pipes, but little research has been conducted to evaluate its potential for controlling the invaders in natural ecosystems, the DNR said. It is not lethal to native mussels.”

The crash that killed the mother, wife and daughter of an Eden Prairie man seems to have struck a chord with quite a few people. Jenna Ross at the Strib says: “Michelle Hoffman, her 8-year-old daughter, Julia, and her 5-year-old son, Jason, were riding with Hoffman’s mother-in-law, Marta Stoffers, 68, near Willmar when a pickup truck crashed head-on into their minivan. Michelle and Julia Hoffman and Stoffers were killed; Jason Hoffman was injured. The pickup’s driver, Paul Wickenhauser, 21, of Norwood Young America, is being held in Kandiyohi County jail on suspicion of three counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide and two misdemeanor offenses, including having an open bottle. Charges are possible Monday. The Hoffman family of six was spending the summer with relatives and planned to return soon to Oman, on the Arabian Sea, where they have worked for the past two years at the American International School of Muscat. Since the crash, dozens of people have posted condolences on family members’ Facebook pages and promised their prayers.”

Another tragedy, a family struck by lightning on Lake Superior, gets staff coverage from the News Tribune: “A 9-year-old boy from Iron River died of injuries suffered when lightning hit near a 26-foot sailboat near the end of Minnesota Point late Saturday afternoon. The St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office reports that Luke Voigt — one of eight people aboard the boat injured in the lightning strike — died after being airlifted to Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center. … The Duluth Fire Department, the St. Louis County Rescue Squad, the U.S. Coast Guard, Duluth Police Department and Gold Cross Ambulance were among the agencies responding to the call. The boat was about three miles from the Sky Harbor Airport at the end of Minnesota Point near the Superior entry. Because of the difficulty getting to the remote site, which is about two miles from a road, about 25 minutes elapsed before the firefighters arrived by boat. Other responders followed by boat, all-terrain vehicles, and on foot … .”

Three GOP legislators take Gov. Dayton to the woodshed for supporting … unions. In a Strib commentary, Mike Benson, Keith Downey and the not-exactly-publicity-shy Steve Drazkowski write: “The tentative contract agreements negotiated by Gov. Mark Dayton with the state’s two largest unions are representative of the problem today in state government: protecting the status quo and asking Minnesota taxpayers to pay more for it. Members of AFSCME and MAPE have been working for the past year and a half without a new contract. That wasn’t a problem for their members. The current contract, which includes a $43 million increase for built-in autopilot pay increases and free health insurance for state employees, remains in place until a new deal is approved. In other words, the unions have all the leverage. They can continue working until Dayton offers them a contract even better than the ever-increasing pay and benefits they currently receive. … The new contract also ignores substantial pay-for-performance reforms approved by the Legislature in 2011 and 2012. The governor preserved the status quo of rewarding employees for length of service with virtually automatic ‘step’ increases as a proxy for employee value and performance.” Which reminds me, did the Legislature ever get around to a “pay for performance” bill for themselves? if so, I foresee significant savings …